Introduction: We are excited to continue our popular Educator Spotlight series this year. Through this series we hope to offer readers a glimpse of how Gibbons Educators care for and engage with students, forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community. We start this year’s series with Fine Arts Educator Rebecca Dason.
Each day Rebecca Dason, a fine arts educator at Gibbons for 38 years, does what she has always done: Spark the interest and creativity of her students in the visual arts program. But in this COVID-19 era, she also is finding new ways to teach hands-on art courses in a hybrid and remote learning environment.
How Dason turns necessity into the mother of educational invention is evident in her class, Introduction to Clay. Every minute of the 75-minute class, this recipient of the Lewis Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Diocese of Raleigh, is guiding, encouraging, and inspiring her students to discover the artist within.
Recognizing the pandemic’s toll, Dason starts her class by inviting students to write their reaction to an uplifting quotation. This respite, she notes, enables them to ease their minds before transforming a lump of clay, a square tile, or a blank piece of paper into art.
No easy task. But Dason uses tech tools to teach online that spill over to her face-to-face classes, creating a seamless transition. On this recent Tuesday, Dason asks the remote learners to watch the videos she created about trimming, wedging, or glazing so they are prepared to start their own creations when they meet in person.
Meanwhile, the students in class are ready to test their nascent artistic skills. Several head to the potter’s wheels and moments later are wrist-deep in clay and enjoying every minute of it.
Dason, sporting a Parsons School of Design blue apron, walks the room, providing instructions, helpful hints, and, without fail, a string of motivational words: “You got it.” “That looks great.” “Try it again.”
The students’ excited chatter fills the room. They are ribbing one another about creations that still look like lumps of clay or admiring those that are clearly becoming bowls.
Elsewhere, students are painting or glazing tiles. Atop the tiles are beautifully crafted butterflies, sunflowers, and rainbows – art treasures in miniature.
In another corner of Room 139, students are watching Dason’s how-to videos or writing in their sketchbooks. In the hallway, a student is matting and framing a self-portrait entitled “Time Flies.”
That title perfectly – and artfully – captures what happens in Room 139.